Norfork Tailwater

Fishing dry flies on the Norfork Tailwater

Posted by John Berry on July 26th, 2012
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Last week I had a two day guide trip with Roy and Devonne, two anglers from Houston. On the first day, we fished the White River in the Catch and Release section below Bull Shoals Dam.

The upper White has been fishing better than the rest of the river and this day was no exception. We tried a lot of different flies with limited success in the morning. It was brutally hot and around 2:30 PM when the guys were ready to pull the plug. I knew that early afternoon was generally the worst time of day to fish and that things would generally improve later in the afternoon.

I talked them into staying on the water for a while longer, with the promise that if the fishing did not improve soon we would quit for the day. On the next drift, we picked up several nice fish. The bite was on. Over the next couple of hours we caught several nice trout and finished the day with around twenty five nice fish. They were pleased with the results and were glad that they had stayed on the water until 5:00 PM.

I suggested that we try something different for the next day. I wanted to take them to the Norfork but I had not seen the Southwest Power Administration’s generation prediction and was not sure what the conditions would be. I explained this to the guys and suggested that we get an earlier start to beat the heat. We agreed to meet at six. They were up for anything.

We were on the Norfork a little after daylight. It was cool and there was a dense fog on the water. We knew that the temperature would climb to over one hundred degrees with plenty of sun. We made our way upstream to the Catch and Release section. The water was low and gin clear. I put Devonne in a fast stretch of riffle water and rigged his rod with a black zebra midge, a bit of lead and a strike indicator. I placed Roy downstream and rigged his rod with my green butt on a twelve foot leader tippet combination ending in 5X tippet.

Devonne was into fish immediately and over the next few hours caught fish after fish. From time to time the action would slow down and we would change flies. This generally produced more fish. Over the course of the morning, we fished zebra midges (size 20) in red and black, pheasant tail nymphs, copper Johns, brassies, Y2Ks, disco midges and worm brown San Juan worms. We caught trout on all of them. A small egg pattern had no takers.

Roy caught about ten rainbows on the green butt but was ready for a change. There was a midge hatch coming off and I saw a few mayflies. I was unable to catch one as the hatch was very sparse. Roy wanted to try a dry fly. We talked about the hatches coming off and agreed on a size 22 parachute Adams. The problem was that I had a difficult time tying it on. My eyes were not up to the task. I borrowed Roy’s reading glasses and was finally able to thread the hook. I put some fly floatant on it and Roy was ready to go. He was an excellent caster and a good dry fly fisher. He was into a nice trout immediately and was quite pleased.

Devonne was steadily catching fish but was ready for some top water action. I suggested a hopper and he agreed. I removed the strike indicator, lead and nymph. I cut off the 5X tippet and tied on some 4X. The leader tippet combination was the nine feet long. I tied on a Dave’s hopper and added a black zebra midge as a dropper on 5X tippet. He only had one take on the hopper but was catching trout after trout on the dropper. We fished till noon. The generation prediction had been for the water to come up at eleven. For once, I was glad that it was wrong. We went back to the access and had a nice lunch on a picnic table in the shade.

After a brief break, we decided to return to the water and waded back to our spot. It was getting pretty hot (102 degrees) and I was beginning to regret not wet wading. Roy stuck with his dry fly with the exception of having me tie on a larger fly, a size sixteen Adam’s parachute. He was on fire and caught trout after trout including a nice cutthroat and several fine browns.

Devonne had a single goal; he wanted to catch a brown trout on a dry fly. I took his leader, cut off the flies, added a three foot 5X tippet and added a size sixteen Adam’s parachute. I applied some floatant and steered him to some good dry fly water. He was fairly new to dry fly fishing but was interested in honing his skills. Over the next couple of hours, he was able to land several nice trout including a fat fourteen inch brown.

I spent my time mostly netting fish and taking photos. I watched the water level carefully. I felt like the water would come up at any minute. About three o’clock I noticed the water creeping up. I told the guys it was time to leave. They reluctantly left and we walked back to the access with no problem.

The early start had been a good idea. We had caught most of our fish in the cool of the morning. I was also nice to get into some nice dry fly fishing. They caught and released around ninety fish. Not bad for a brutally hot day!

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